Two former police officers were on Tuesday arrested on charges that they killed a popular councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro a year ago, Reuters reports. Marielle Franco, a well-known human rights activist in Brazil, was shot dead by unknown assailants in March 2018.
She was killed in a car on Joaquim Palhares Street, in the Central Region of Rio, at about 9:30 p.m.
The driver of the vehicle, Anderson Pedro Gomes, was also shot dead while Franco’s adviser sustained injuries. Councilman Tarcisio Motta (PSOL), who confirmed the news said: “several indications point to an execution.”
Her death sparked national protests and many believed that she was targeted because of her activism against police violence and killings in poor Rio neighbourhoods
A few days to the first anniversary of the young politician’s death, Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Élcio Vieira Queiroz, a former police officer, have been arrested, the Guardian reports.
According to the state’s press release cited by CNN, Queiroz drove the vehicle that pulled up alongside Franco’s car while Lessa is accused of pulling the trigger.
“It is incontestable that Marielle Franco was summarily executed for her political activity in the defence of the causes she defended,” prosecutors said in a statement. The statement further indicated that her killing had been planned three months in advance
Lawyers for both ex-officers said they did not commit the crime, Reuters reports
Franco, a Rio city councillor who was elected to office in 2016, was very vocal while championing for the respect of the rights of persons in the country, including black people, women and the minority, as well as, the LGBT community.
The black politician and feminist was a resident of the Favela da Maré and was said to have complained about the rate of violence in the city. The 38-year-old was also involved in a 2008 state legislature inquiry into paramilitary gang activity, according to the Guardian
Following her death in March 2018, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in protest, demanding an investigation and arrest of those behind the murder.
International rights groups such as Amnesty International that condemned the councilwoman’s murder has welcomed the arrests made in the case
Last July, the Brazilian municipality, Rio de Janeiro, set aside a day to highlight the genocide of black women.
Set for March 14, the day will also commemorate the life and times of Franco.
The governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Luiz Fernando Pezão, signed into law the day, called “Marielle Franco Day – a day against the genocide of the black woman”.
The day will also involve the discussions and debates on the murder of black women in a country where black women aged 15-29 are killed at twice the rate of white women in the same age group, reports Rio Times
According to Renata Souza, the councillor’s former chief of staff, it is time to put black women at the centre of public policy.
To have March 14th as a date that saves and revives Marielle Franco’s struggle for the lives of black, poor, favela and peripheral women is very important and symbolic. It is urgent that black women be the focus of public policies because they are the main victims of the lack of state assistance. Therefore, it is these black women who in the last ten years have the highest rates of feminicide when they are murdered by their spouses in abusive relationships.
Franco’s unsolved death in March highlighted racial inequality in Brazil and robbed under-represented black women in the favelas a champion.